Apple patents a lot of wacky ideas, and a new patent application spotted by folks over at Patently Apple shows an integrated thumbstick attached to the iPhone home button.
The thumbstick seems to click onto the home button, fixing in place and being able to receive X, Y and Z axis inputs, allowing full directional control for users.
In the patent, Apple suggests a touchscreen is not always the optimal way to play video games, and this new thumbstick would address the problems. Tactile feedback and axis inputs gives the user more control over camera or player movement, that a touchscreen simply cannot deliver.
There are a few Bluetooth connected controllers and pads available for iOS, but the issue is all of them working with games on the iOS store. Unless the developer optimises for the gamepad, it simply will not work, or the mapping will be all wrong.
If Apple integrates its own thumbstick onto the home button, mobile game developers will pay attention, but it is still unknown if any of this will become an actual product, or if it just another one of Apple's weird patents.
The home button is currently in use on the iPhone 5S and above for Touch ID, and Apple would have to turn off Touch ID when using the thumbstick, meaning some type of NFC or magnetic connection would need to be established, to turn off Touch ID.
Mobile games have never been Apple's forte, and banning games like Papers, Please show a disconnect between the company's review staff and the general iOS audience. However, Apple has been integrating a new graphical engine named 'Metal' and reportedly will add 2GB of LPDDR4 RAM into the iPhone 6S.